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The American Dream. Our individual vision of it defines each and every one of us. In comparing the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The movie A Place in the sun, (based on the book An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser) it was easy to see many similarities in both to compare and contrast. This essay, however, focuses solely on the misguided desires of Gatsby and George and their warped vision of the American Dream. The three desires compared between the two will be; Wealth, Status, and Love.
I will first compare the vision of wealth that both Gatsby and George shared. To Jay Gatsby the vision of wealth was a kind of magical key to a dream-palace of imaginary bliss. For Gatsby material wealth was what a holy “vision” was to a religious mystic. For Gatsby material “success” was itself an ultimate goal, and this was the basic paradox at the heart of Gatsby’s “romance with Daisy.
Jay Gatsby, who would make of materialism a spiritual ideal, was ultimately destroyed by his own dreams. Secondly, in Chapter 5, When Gatsby meets Daisy again for the first time in five years, Nick tries to comfort him in the kitchen, and finally becomes impatient. “You’re acting like a little boy,” he says to Jay, and this single remark defines much of Gatsby’s peculiar charm. For Gatsby, despite (or because of) his wealth, and his dreams, was indeed a “little boy”– a worshipper of toys that he took to be signs of Divinity.
For immature people like Jay Gatsby, the trivial is always elevated to the universally significant. Lastly, Gatsby, after being so proud of his wealth at the beginning of the book, totally reassess the value of all of his possessions (regardless of how expensive they were) by the reactions they elicited from Daisy. It was as if Gatsby believed that Daisy was the embodiment of all that he desired to acquire, and was, therefore, all knowing in the value and worth of all things.
George was also confused about wealth. He, like Gatsby, also believed that the wealth of the individual determined the value of the person. This became apparent early in the movie when George went to meet his Uncle and his family. Although he was he was remarkably respectful and nice to the Eastmans he suddenly became embarrassed when they asked him about his mother. His mother was a poverty stricken women, who was nevertheless exceptionally kind and worked to help the needy and the poor. What George failed to see was the fact that although his mother was not a wealthy woman she was a far more valuable person than any of the Wealthy, and self-indulgent Eastmans, and far from an embarrassment. Secondly, when George was poor and working in a menial job, packing bathing suits at the end of an assembly line, he came across a frumpy, plain-looking Alice Tripp. George, being poor and lonely, was more than happy to go out with Alice, despite a no fraternization rule prohibiting mixing socially with the girls who worked there. However, because he was lonely, and he sensed her loneliness as well, he went out with her to combat mutual loneliness and ended up impregnating her. Later, he received a promotion and his Uncle, Charles Eastman, invited George to a social party. On the night of the party He met the rich extravagant Angela Vickers, and fell immediately in love with her rich lifestyle and status. When finally given the choice between Alice and Angela (As well as everything that Angela represented) he swept up Angela and he dumped Alice like an old worn out sweater.
My last example of how George was misguided in his vision for wealth, was his decision that ultimately lead George to his destruction. Alice, being pregnant with Georges child, refused to be dropped like a sack of old laundry. She found out about Angela and she threatened George that she would reveal all and then commit suicide unless he agreed to marry her that weekend. George could not be forced away from the rich life so easily, however. He was convinced that the only way he could rid himself of the problem of Alice would be to murder Alice and then pretend he never knew her. He came up with a devious plan to murder Alice rather than have to give up Angela and the rich life she promised.
The second thing I will compare between the two will be Status. Status was a misguided desire for Gatsby because he believed his wealth gave him status, which it did not. Secondly, in his desire to obtain Daisy, be believed be could only have her if he had her status, which, in his opinion, was only accessible by gaining wealth. Lastly and sadly, he shunned his past, and changed his name from Gatz to Gatzby in the belief that doing so would make his inferior status disappear. George, too, was confuse about status. First off, he did not realize that he already had status just because his last name was Eastman. Alice was correct when she told George, If your and Eastman your not in the same boat as anyone.” His family was equally confused in this matter, which became apparent when his aunt asked about what they were going to do about George socially. Thirdly, Georges confusion in this area lead him to break up with Alice when he was able to make it with a wealthier girl with higher status.
This leads me to my last comparison between Gatsby and George…Love. Love truly was a misunderstood concept for both men. First off, George fools himself into believing that he is in love with Alice, when he is actually just using her to fend off boredom and loneliness. When he later found out that he had gotten Alice pregnant he felt not joy at the news, but rather he felt suddenly trapped, and immediately started making plans for abortion, and murder. Secondly, George managed to make himself believe that he had fallen in love with Angela. In actuality he had only fallen in love with the Vickers name and status. He enjoyed being a part of the rich life and Angela offered all of the thing that he desired; Wealth, Status, and love. The fact that Angela and her friends were shallow never factored into his opinion because George placed all that in second seat so as to enjoy all the other pleasures that money could buy. Lastly George liked to tell himself that he loved his mother, and he told his mother that he loved her. He also told her that he was leaving to make some money in order to help her financially. This became doubtable however after his Uncle Charles Eastman gave George a Promotion. George did eventually call his mother to inform her on how he was doing, but only after his Uncle had to practically insist on it first. After he called his mother he made sure to keep his voice down so as not to alert other people as to whom he was talking. Gatsby also proved befuddled in the way of love. In fact, Gatsby showed to have a huge problem with loving Daisy as a woman. So completely had she been for him an ideal, a Holy Cause, that to accept her for a woman with a real life and a real past (a past complete with a husband and a child) was no longer a
onger with the possibility. In a basic sense, Gatsby had not only idealized reality, but had replaced reality with the Ideal. Secondly, Gatsby’s insistences that he could indeed “repeat the past” was an important clue to his essential adolescence — an adolescence that he had never outgrown. For it was “I want” that essentially served as a theme for his living; However, the love with Daisy that Gatsby “wanted” was based solely on illusion. Lastly, Gatsby, at any rate, did not “want” Daisy as she existed; he wanted his Golden Girl, his Golden Dream from five years before. That this Dream had actually lived with another man for five years, and – even more intolerable – had actually borne a child by him – had no part in his vision. One could not, after all, imagine a “dream girl” in a state of pregnancy. Gatsby, again, had devoted all his “magic” to an image which no longer existed; he was indeed watching over “nothing”– and this defined both the purity of his romanticism, and his confusion in the way of love.
Love, wealth, and Status would not have been entirely unacceptable pursuits in trying to accomplish an American Dream, had George and Gatsby realized them for what they were–visions. That they would go to such extremes as to deceive themselves and to hurt others only proved to define that their American Dreams had warped to such extremes that they did not believe that they could go on living without accomplishing them. They were, as are we all, defined by their pursuit of their individual American Dreams.
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